Stipe Miocic’s first title defense couldn’t have gone any better.
Rallying after some early trouble in front of his home crowd, the Croatian-American dispatched Alistair Overeem, a man who has been argued as the greatest combat sports athlete ever due to his success in kickboxing and MMA, in just one round.
Having just come off a win over Fabricio Werdum, another man who has been talked about as an all-time great due to his wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez, it is now Miocic who is garnering the most attention in terms of the great heavyweight debate.
Despite selling out the 18,000-seat Quicken Loans Arena and the rousing reception he had after his main event victory at UFC 203, Miocic still has trouble when considering the argument that he could be the best heavyweight of all time.
“Of course it’s hard for me to see myself like that,” he said. “I’m just a Cleveland boy at heart.
“Sure, I’ve become a lot more recognizable since the Cleveland show, but I don’t think about that stuff much. I just love to fight. I worked hard to get to where I want to be.
“I got the belt and now I’ve defended it. I want to keep on doing that so I can hold on to the belt for a long time.
“I don’t care about what people think or how much my profile gets boosted. The main thing is I like what I do for a living. I’m not much of a talker, I just go in there to fight.”
The heavyweight champion is the perfect tonic for a lot of the copycats that have come to the forefront since Conor McGregor’s emergence over the last few years.
The ratio of UFC fighters wearing three-piece suits and rattling off various reasons why they are the most important fighter in their division has skyrocketed. As well as that, any opponent matched with the McGregor copycats can be assured of well thought out insults to usher them into their meeting.
Fabricio Werdum thought his victory over Travis Browne at UFC 203 would be enough to sure up a rematch with Miocic, but he has since been confirmed to face Velasquez for the second time on December 30.
The Brazilian’s recent spat with the UFC over Reebok seems like a bad way for him to align himself with a title shot, but Miocic refused to lambast his rival, and instead wished him luck for his upcoming bout.
“I don’t know if it’s the right way to go about getting a title shot,” he replied carefully.
“There’s a reason for why he did all of that. He spoke up and said what he wanted to say, so good for him. I’m a quiet guy. I just like to do my thing. Best of luck to him in his fight on the New Year’s Eve card.
“As far as his situation with Dana, I’d rather plead the fifth on that one, to be honest,” he laughed.
The heavyweight division used to be the bracket the UFC called upon when breaking new ground as evidenced by Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez taking pride of place on the first FOX broadcast the promotion enjoyed back in November 2011.
Exactly five years later, now it’s any fight that includes McGregor that bolsters banners significantly, with the Irishman about to headline the promotion’s first show in New York.
Miocic will just have returned to US soil after his trip to Croatia in time to see the landmark card, but he is happy to sit on the sidelines and watch the event as opposed to fighting at it.
“I’m going to enjoy watching it. I’m glad that I don’t have to go through all the stresses of fight week. It’s great.”
Despite the obvious differences in personality between him and McGregor, Miocic didn’t have a bad word to say about the SBG frontrunner.
“Good for him, you know. He’s good at what he does. He’s made a name for himself and he’s brought a lot of new eyeballs to the sport. Sure, I wish I could talk like that, but I’ve never been a guy that talks smack or anything like that.”
With his growing status as heavyweight champion, you might think that Miocic feels obliged to bring more to the table when he has a microphone thrust under his face. According to Miocic, he feels no burden to captivate the masses in the same way that McGregor has.
“If I’ve learned one thing about life, it’s that people love drama, but I don’t feel any pressure to do stuff like that. Maybe if someone comes at me with something I’ll say something back to them, but I would never go out of my way to do it.
“Honestly, it’s exhausting for me to think about all of that stuff. Thinking about what to say and how I’m going to say it. I have no time for that kind of thing. If it comes my way I have no problem with it, but I think there are more important things to be doing when you’re preparing for a fight.”
It seems as though Miocic’s originality could shine through among the McGregor tribute acts, but again, it’s nothing that the champion has planned for.
“Maybe that will endear the fans to me and maybe it won’t. I just want it to be about how I fight. I just want to go out there and give it all that I’ve got. I just want to fight hard and win. If people like that, good, if they don’t, I guess I’m sorry.”
‘The Notorious’ has patented calling his shots. He’ll tell anyone that will listen who he wants to fight, where he will do it and how he will finish the contest.
With Velasquez already booked to meet Werdum at UFC 207, the likely matchup for Miocic’s second defense for would be a rematch with former champion Junior Dos Santos. Miocic’s trip to Croatia will likely bring with it a fight announcement, but the Croatian is staying tight-lipped.
“Cain’s a great matchup for me. I was there to see his last fight and he looked great. The truth is I really will fight whoever UFC put in front of me. That’s all you’ll get out of me.
“Obviously, I’d love to get that fight back against JDS, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
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